When you’re preparing for your first baby, there is SO much to do. Now that I’m just a few weeks away from being full-term (ahhh!), I feel like my husband and I have been so busy getting things ready for our little girl. There have been birth classes to attend, books to read, carseat checks, getting the nursery together, financial stuff to get in order, birth-plan writing, doula meetings, doctor appointments — and getting our dog ready.
Our dog Siena is a total sweetheart — once you know her. But she’s a rescue pup and tends to be skittish and scared of new situations and new people at first. Including small people, like babies. So as soon as I got pregnant, Ryan and I set out to do everything we could to make sure that when our new little of bundle of joy arrives, our furriest family member is as prepared as she can be. I’ve been reading up on all kinds of tips on getting your dog ready for baby, and here are the ones that really seem to be working for us!
7 Tips for Getting Dog Ready for Baby
1. Set up the baby gear early. Our dog gets suspicious of anything new and large that comes in the house, so very early on, we went ahead and bought a few baby essentials — changing table, crib and a rock ‘n play — and set them up. We introduced new items every few weeks, so she’s had plenty of time to get used to them and now considers them normal. Up next, we plan to do walks with her and the stroller and start using a few of the baby products so that she’s used to the smell of them.
2. Play house with a doll. Some experts recommend getting a life-sized doll to practice with, but we had this baby-sized Tigger that we’ve been treating like a baby, and it’s been a great way to see how a dog might react to a new little person in the house. Ryan and I carry Tigger around like a baby, give it attention, coo at it and place it in all that aforementioned baby gear just like we would with a real baby. We take Tigger up with us at bed time and place him in the crib, we “go get the baby” in the morning and even place him on the changing table like he needs to be changed.
The first week we did this, Siena was definitely suspicious and a touch jealous. But, as we kept at it and gave her positive reinforcement for all things baby (more on that in a bit), she reacted well and began to get used to this new orange critter. We realize we must look insane to any neighbors who’ve seen us, but it’s all worth it in the spirit of good dog/baby relations.
3. Play house with your friends’ babies. Once things with Tigger were going well, we had the chance to have a few real babies come over. Our friends are totally awesome and love Siena, so they’d come over with their infants and let Siena sniff them. There was still a little barking and some skittishness at first, but it gave us the chance to expose her to real babies, let her smell their sweet baby smell and reinforce good behavior.
4. Change up the routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. Newborns? Not so much. Therefore we’ve been varying the times Siena eats and goes for a walk for the last few months. We know that our whole entire lives and schedules will change with the new baby, and we hope this helps her adapt a bit now rather than later to a changing schedule. We haven’t gone to the extreme of waking up in the middle of the night (besides my frequent pee breaks), but some experts recommend doing that.
5. Play all the noises. Yep, in addition to carrying Tigger around, we also play baby-crying videos. There are free ones online, and they help your dog to get used to a sound that you’ll surely be hearing. We also have already put batteries in any toys or other items that light up or make noise and used them around our dog. Every little bit of new stimulation exposure helps!
6. Plan baby breaks for the pup. No matter how much getting-dog-ready-for-baby prep we do, we know that it’s going to be a big change for all of us when it happens. So we’ve already talked to my parents about watching Siena here and there for a bit in the first few months, and we have a doggie daycare close to us that we’ve been using off and on that she loves going to. When she begins to seem a bit overwhelmed or we can’t give her the full attention she needs, we know we can get her some play time that’s totally focused on her. That said, Ryan and I are also planning to make one-on-one time for us just with Siena, too.
7. Associate the baby with awesomeness. Instead of scolding Siena for bad behavior or making the baby off-limits, we’re committed to positive reinforcement and including our dog in all things baby. This means lots of treats, encouraging gentle behavior and letting her enjoy the experience with us. And, just in case the transition is harder than we expect, we have the names of a few dog trainers we can call once baby is here for professional help if needed. Although, hopefully this is a sign of good things to come …
How did you get your dog ready for baby? Any other tips or advice or experiences you can share? We’ll see here in a few weeks how it goes! Although I feel confident that with the right positive reinforcement and time, Siena will fully accept our little girl as part of the family. And a new person to help protect from that darn evil mailman. —Jenn